Questions Of Cash: I've been fleeced by my local phone shop
Saturday 17 May 2008
Q. In September 2006, I signed a 12-month contract with T-Mobile, through Mobile Connections, which provided me with two handsets, with 500 free minutes for each handset. I had to pay £35 monthly by direct debit. This was to be refunded to me each month, providing I presented a paid bill to their Birmingham shop, within 28 days of the date of billing. Three months later, I took a friend to Mobile Connections, but his account application was declined. Mobile Connections suggested I process his application using my bank account, with the staff pointing out that my money was not at risk as the money would be refunded to my account. He took up an 18-month contract with T-Mobile, with £35 taken from my account each month, to be refunded on the same conditions as with my account.
In June, I signed two more accounts with Mobile Connections. From June last year, I visited the Mobile Connections shop more than a hundred times to present my bills as per the contract terms, but the shop was always closed. I have not had any refunds since May last year. I wanted to take out a court case against Mobile Connections, but I was told that I would have to pay £350 to have the case processed. I am an international student at Aston University, must pay £8,500 tuition fees and I have to cover my living expenses. I cannot afford to lose this money. I thought the UK did not have companies like this. AL, Birmingham.
A. Sadly, not only does the UK have businesses like Mobile Connections, but there have been many of them. Dial a Mobile Ltd, which traded as Mobile Connections, ceased trading last August. Birmingham City Council's trading standards department has been in active discussion with the owners of the business, but expects the company to go into administration. It is unlikely that its many customers who, like you, are owed money will receive much, if anything. Detailed advice is provided by Birmingham trading standards on its website, www.birming ham.gov.uk. Mobile Connections is one of numerous mobile phone retailers that have closed down, after offering attractive cash back offers. The assumption by most of them was that a large proportion of customers would not comply with the conditions attached to the cash-back offer. In practice, a lot of customers claimed the cash backs – and many retailers did not make enough profit to meet the volume of claims.
Q. I have just received a card reader from Nationwide for my online banking. The reader is used with my debit card to verify my PIN number, then I am given a one-off code to login online. But what is to stop anyone getting this type of reader and using it to fraudulently find out the PIN of a debit card they have obtained illegally? There is no limit on how many times the PIN can be checked and it can be done at home rather than the limited access and public forum of using an ATM, or shop-located chip/PIN card reader. LW, Thetford
A. Your assumption is wrong – you are given just three goes to input the correct PIN, as you are with a cash machine. Nationwide's spokesman Roy Beale explains: "The new Card Reader Security introduced for our FlexAccount Visa debit card customers adds an extra layer of protection when carrying out certain transactions online, such as third-party payments. The card reader works in an identical way to a shop-located chip and PIN card reader. However, the customer's sign-on details – including user name and memorable data – are also needed to access Nationwide's Internet Banking facilities.
The Card Reader Security uses the customer's FlexAccount Visa debit card and PIN to generate a unique eight-digit passcode to validate transactions. The customer has three attempts to get the PIN right and, if inputted incorrectly three times, the card will be locked to prevent anyone making multiple attempts to guess the number."
Q. I recently returned from a holiday in Canada. As usual when I go abroad, I did not take local currency, but went to an ATM on arrival to draw cash, using my Visa debit card. But on this occasion I received a message saying my card issuer, Alliance & Leicester, would not authorise the transaction. I then emailed A&L to say that I was in Canada and would it unblock my card. Instead, A&L told me I must go into a bank to withdraw funds and that my card could not be used in local cashpoints.
This was very inconvenient as this was a Sunday, I had no Canadian dollars and I was staying a long distance from a bank, without a car. It was several days before I could get any money. A&L tell me the card was blocked for security reasons and that it would have worked if I had attempted to make a small withdrawal. When I complained, A&L said that it did not spell out this advice to customers, also for security reasons. TG, London.
A. A&L confirms that the information you were given is correct. It makes the reasonable point that "dealing with fraud whilst providing customers with information that could not be exploited by fraudsters is a difficult balance to strike". We agree with that, but banks need to stress that customers should notify their bank when they intend to travel abroad. It is also important for customers to know the limit of what they may withdraw.
A&L says that customers may only withdraw £50 a day from an overseas ATM – whether or not a customer notifies they are going abroad. It is considering ways that this information can be made more explicit, without breaching security. "The difficulty we have is that any information on specific limits on withdrawals in different parts of the world can change on a regular basis, rendering any previous guidance out of date," adds A&L's spokesman, Steve Gracey. But, in any case, a £50 daily withdrawal limit seems to us unrealistic and likely to cause considerable customer inconvenience.
Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; email@example.com.
Derek Pain: I'm cautious, but remain one of the few bulls in the market
Donald MacInnes: Who would want to be a Barbie girl in a non-Barbie world?
Mark Dampier: How to get an income now that savings are past the 'use by' date
Thousands of UK investors could lose out following collapse of Secured Energy Bonds
Bargain Hunter: Fly off for a winter break in France or Portugal for well under £100
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
Day In a Page
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion